Yesterday I had the blues. Actually I was descending towards what Truman Capote's character, Holly Golightly, would call "the red means." Why? Too much negative self introspection? Absolutely. Too much reminiscing over the sadder moments of my life? Can I get an amen to that? But mostly I had one of those moments where, like that sharp pain you get under your ribcage from too much exertion, I knew I had missed out. To be fair my mood had already darkened before I listened to one of my dearest friends in the world convey knowledge he gained from having a daughter and I was introduced to the notion of yet another thing I missed out on by not having children.
Even as I actively pursued "not having children" - because while the notion courted me, I found merit and actively followed that path - I knew I would live a different life from many people. I knew I could never claim the immortality of a healthy, vibrant family tree branching out into a future I couldn't hope to live to see. My heart always ached a little to know I would never hold a tiny hand in my hand or feel the unconditional or unquestioning love of a toddler, while I breathed a sigh of relief that I would never know the distain of a teenager.
My father once had a story he told about friends of friends. Apparently they had an unexpected windfall and were questioning whether they should spend the money towards adopting a child or buying a new car. Everyone in my family rolled their eyes in exasperation and said, "Well, if you have to ask ..." **sneer** "buy the new car."
I bought the new car. I took the vacations. Most of the time, I never looked back.
Until two days ago when I listened to a single parent speak with passion of the things he has learned. The selfless wisdom that comes only from having had a child. And I knew I had missed out. There was an entire wing of knowledge in the library of life from which I had detoured myself away.
Sometimes the bitch slap of what you already should have realized stinging your face can shock.
I spent the day irritable, on edge, ready to cry at a simple change in the breeze. Until this morning. You see this morning, I remembered something. It is the reason Christians have the saying, "Whenever God shuts a door, he opens a window." We tend to look at our choices as black and white, right or wrong creatures. Just recently while watching "Celebrity Rehab" - yes I occasionally watch very schlocky television - I watched Sean Young tear her hair out over losing a part in the movie, "Batman." After asking who had eventually won the part, the counselor sagely asked, "and how has her career been lately?"
We look at all these choices as things that will make or break us. "I could have been somebody. I could have been a contender." If only I . .. .. . got married, had kids, inhaled, didn't inhale, went to college . . . well, you get the point. The truth is they are more like the Robert Frost poem, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood ......" While sometimes you may return to visit the unchosen path, choosing a path very likely means sights on that other path that you will never see. Sometimes you will find yourself a continent away and no longer will even remember what words to program into Mapquest to find those unchosen detours. Sometimes, strangled by indecision, you will forget that not choosing a path is actually a choice in itself. One that leads to conclusions and outcomes just as surely as consciously choosing would have done. Sometimes you will despair that what you chose led you to what seem to be inconsequential victories, like learning how to play a mean game of Pinochle; while the choices of other people around you seem to have led them to sainthood.
I suppose the trick is to remember to be as kind to yourself as you would be to others and try to appreciate the things you DID learn. Most of all, remember. It is just a road you have chosen to walk upon. You can always change directions and choose another path. Of course, do so too often and you may find yourself walking in circles, never arriving anywhere, but even that probably has merits only those travelers can truly see and appreciate. Because, best of all, all of the journeys have wondrous things to see and learn for those whose eyes and hearts aren't afraid to be open.